K. Shanmugam

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Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam
காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் சண்முகம்
K Shanmugam crop.jpg
Shanmugam in 2013
Minister for Home Affairs
Assumed office
1 October 2015
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byTeo Chee Hean
ConstituencyNee Soon GRC
In office
1 November 2010 – 20 May 2011
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byWong Kan Seng
Succeeded byTeo Chee Hean
Minister for Law
Assumed office
1 May 2008
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byS. Jayakumar
ConstituencyNee Soon GRC
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Nee Soon GRC
(Chong Pang)
Assumed office
7 May 2011
Majority33,149 (23.80%)
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
21 May 2011 – 30 September 2015
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byGeorge Yeo
Succeeded byVivian Balakrishnan
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Sembawang GRC
(Chong Pang)
In office
3 September 1988 – 18 April 2011
Personal details
Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam

(1959-03-26) 26 March 1959 (age 62)
Political partyPeople's Action Party
Seetha Subbiah
(m. 2008)
; Jothie Rajah (divorced)
Children2 (from prev. marriage)[1]
Alma materNational University of Singapore

Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam SC (born 26 March 1959), better known as K. Shanmugam, is a Singaporean politician and lawyer. A member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP) , he was appointed as the Minister for Law and the Minister for Home Affairs by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He was elected as the People's Action Party Central Executive Committee Treasurer.

He has been the Minister for Law since May 2008, when he was appointed to the Singapore Cabinet. Whilst being Minister for Law, he has concurrently held the following portfolios: (1) the Second Minister for Home Affairs (May 2008 - Oct 2010); (2) the Minister for Home Affairs (Oct 2010 - May 2011, and since Sep 2015); and (3) Minister for Foreign Affairs (May 2011 - Sep 2015). [2]He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Sembawang Group Representation Constituency from 3 September 1988 to 19 April 2011 and Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (since 7 May 2011), serving the Chong Pang ward in both constituencies. He is put in charge of leading the Nee Soon GRC.

In his earlier days as a lawyer, Shanmugam was regarded as one of the top litigators in Singapore. Known as one of the twin titans of litigation, he featured prominently in Singapore's legal circles.[3][4]

He has received praise for being one of the top cross examiners in the country. He acted, amongst others, for the then-Chief Justice of Singapore, and for all three of Singapore's Prime Ministers.[5]

American diplomat and academic Kurt Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs has praised Shanmugam for his quality of his mind, legal framing and deeply systematic way of solving problems. He is clear headed and strategic in his thinking. He can be hard-nosed with regards to Singapore's interests, but he is always upfront and clear about his position.[6][7]


Shanmugam was educated in Raffles Institution from 1972 to 1977 before he went on to read law at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Law, where he graduated in 1984.


He earned several awards, book prizes and scholarships for being the top student from his first to third years in law school, for academic merit (1982 - 1983), and also won the Montrose Memorial Prize for Jurisprudence (1984).[8]

Shanmugam was awarded the Adrian Clarke Memorial Medal, the Leow Chia Heng Prize and the External Examiner's Prize (1984) for being the top Law student of his graduating class and top student in the final year examinations. He also represented Singapore in the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot in 1984, where his team won Runner Up in the International Division.[9]

Early career[edit]

After being admitted to the Singapore Bar as an advocate and solicitor in 1985, Shanmugam went into private practice and became a Senior Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution at the Singaporean law firm Allen & Gledhill.

In 1998, Shanmugam became one of the youngest lawyers to be appointed a Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court at the age of 38.[10]

At the age of 29, Shanmugam became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1988 when he was elected as a member for the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) of Sembawang.

He acted for Singapore's three Prime Ministers in various lawsuits, and also acted against all three of them in a defamation involving the International Herald Tribune (IHT). The suit against the IHT was initiated in 1995 by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Lee Kuan Yew stated that the IHT's decision to instruct Shanmugam, even though he was a PAP MP and close to the establishment was the highest form of praise to the integrity of the Counsel and to the integrity of the Government as a whole.[11]

Minister for Law (since 2008)[edit]

Shanmugam served as an MP and continued to practise law until 2008, when he was brought into the Cabinet to replace S. Jayakumar as Minister for Law.[12] He was concurrently made the Second Minister for Home Affairs in 2008, and succeeded Wong Kan Seng as Minister for Home Affairs in 2010.

Following the 2011 general election, Shanmugam relinquished his portfolio as Minister for Home Affairs and was made the Minister for Foreign Affairs, while continuing to serve as Minister for Law.[13] As of 2015, Shanmugam remains as a Member of Parliament serving Chong Pang.[14]

Following Shanmugam's remarks on changes to the qualifying criteria for Singapore's elected presidency, he was criticized by former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock for pre-empting the legislative process and the Presidential Elections Committee, which decides the eligibility of candidates for the Singapore presidential elections.[15]

In February 2018, Shanmugam said that Singapore would change its criminal breach of trust (CBT) laws to address concerns that company directors and key officers of charities would face less harsh maximum punishments for CBT offences than their employees.[16]

Shanmugam was a member of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, where he questioned Simon Milner, Facebook's Vice President of Public Policy for Asia-Pacific, about the misuse of online data by Cambridge Analytica.[17]

Policy Approach[edit]

As Law Minister, Shanmugam was a believer in tempering the law with empathy. This has been the basis to make Singapore's laws to be more compassionate, with greater collectivism, and to make the country to looks out for those who are unable to look after themselves.[18]

During his time as Law Minister, some changes to the criminal and family justice system were effected. These include:

  • Overhaul of the existing Penal Code, to modernize Singapore's criminal laws and enhance protection for the vulnerable in society, such as women and children.[19]
  • Enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act, to provide remedies and recourse for victims of harassment, online bullying and stalking. Subsequent amendments fortified the Act by establishing a stand-alone Protection from Harassment Court to allow protection to be obtained expediently by victims, including that of intimate partner violence.[20]
  • Major changes to the family justice system, where the child's welfare and best interests are placed at the center of the system. Changes also include helping families navigate the court system with less costs and delays by handling family disputes in less rancorous ways.[22]
  • Introduction of community-based sentences to tap on community resources in the rehabilitation of offenders.[23]
  • Review of mandatory death penalty to give Judges discretion to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment in cases involving unintentional homicide and drug trafficking by couriers, if the stipulated conditions for such are met.[24]
  • Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act to fortify Singapore's drug rehabilitation regime through a more calibrated approach.[25]

Other appointments[edit]

Shanmugam served on the board of directors for several companies before his appointment to the Singapore Cabinet.


  • Non-Executive Director of Sembcorp (July 1998 to April 2008)[26]
  • Director of Asia Food & Properties (July 1997- 2001)[27]
  • Director of Golden Agri-Resources (May 1999 - 2001)[27]


  • Advisory Board of the Faculty of Law[8]
  • Raffles Institution Board of Governors[8]
  • Media Development Authority[8]
  • Sembawang Corporation Industries Ltd[8]

Shanmugam served as the President of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) from March 2002 to March 2009.[8]

Personal life[edit]

A part of the Tamil diaspora, Shanmugam has been married to clinical child psychologist Seetha Subbiah since 2008. He was previously married to Jothie Rajah, a legal academic and daughter of former Judicial Commissioner K. S. Rajah. He is an avid Arsenal fan. [28]


  1. ^ "Free". April 2, 2008. Archived from the original on April 2, 2008.
  2. ^ "MP | Parliament Of Singapore". www.parliament.gov.sg. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  3. ^ "Everything you need to know about PM Press Secretary's rebuttal to Roy Ngerng in 60s". mothership.sg. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  4. ^ "K Shanmugam is appointed to Minister for Law in Singapore". whoswholegal. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  5. ^ "Two of a kind". www.asiaone.com. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  6. ^ hermes (2019-06-16). "Lunch With Sumiko: I do it as long as it's the right thing to do, says Shanmugam". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  7. ^ "Tempering the law with compassion". www.asiaone.com. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  8. ^ a b c d e f approver (2018-11-20). "PMO | Mr K Shanmugam". Prime Minister's Office Singapore. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  9. ^ "NUS Law Mooting and Debating Club | Jessup". nusmooting. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  10. ^ "Tempering the law with compassion". The Straits Times. 4 November 2012. Archived from the original on 21 January 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2016 – via AsiaOne.
  11. ^ "Everyone has right to choose a lawyer". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  12. ^ Law Minister Jayakumar says K Shanmugam will be asset to cabinet Archived 2008-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, channelnewsasia.com, 29 March 2008
  13. ^ PM Lee announces sweeping changes to Cabinet Archived 2011-05-28 at the Wayback Machine, channelnewsasia.com, 18 May 2011
  14. ^ Shanmugam, K. "Member's Profile". GOVERNMENT OF SINGAPORE. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  15. ^ Lim, Yan Liang (18 September 2016). "Changes to elected presidency seek to improve system, not bar certain individuals: Shanmugam". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Shanmugam: Gap in CBT law to be plugged soon". The Straits Times. February 6, 2018. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  17. ^ "Minister Shanmugam grills Facebook representative for 3 hours at parliamentary hearing". Mothership.sg. Archived from the original on 2020-02-25. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  18. ^ "Tempering the law with compassion". www.asiaone.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  19. ^ "Criminal Law Reform Bill: A look at key changes in the Penal Code". www.todayonline.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  20. ^ "Protection from Harassment Act: 5 things you need to know about the landmark legislation". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  21. ^ "Govt will provide direct legal aid to defendants in criminal cases". www.todayonline.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  22. ^ "New Family Justice Courts to better resolve family conflicts". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  23. ^ "Rehabilitation Process". www.sps.gov.sg. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  24. ^ "Singapore completes review of mandatory death penalty". www.channelnewsasia.com. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  25. ^ "Rehabilitation regime to be strengthened as part of proposed changes to Misuse of Drugs Act". www.channelnewsasia.com.
  26. ^ "Sembcorp Industries Annual Report 2008 - Delivering Essential Solutions". www.sembcorp.com. Archived from the original on 2017-09-11. Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  27. ^ a b Lim, Leonard (2013-06-25). "MFA seeks answers from Jakarta to conflicting views on whether Singapore firms caused haze". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2017-09-10. Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  28. ^ Ask Me Anything With Law Minister K Shanmugam, retrieved 2021-08-17

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
S. Jayakumar
Minister for Law
2008 – present
Preceded by
Wong Kan Seng
Minister for Home Affairs
2010 – 2011
Succeeded by
Teo Chee Hean
Preceded by
George Yeo
Minister for Foreign Affairs
2011 – 2015
Succeeded by
Vivian Balakrishnan
Preceded by
Teo Chee Hean
Minister for Home Affairs
2015 – present
Parliament of Singapore
New constituency Member of Parliament for
Sembawang GRC (Chong Pang)

1988 – 2011
Constituency redrawn
New constituency Member of Parliament for
Nee Soon GRC (Chong Pang)

2011 – present